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Thick, woody vegetation hid marijuana operation

Thick, woody vegetation hid marijuana operation
Thick, woody vegetation hid marijuana operation | illegal marijuana growing operation
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Imagine a 10-acre thickly wooded forest with steep hills and the ground covered with dense vegetation. That’s the scene of the illegal marijuana growing operation that had been in operation until a week ago about three miles west of Hornbeak.
One of those who walked around the compound north of Putnam Hill Road Friday afternoon compared the site to the jungles in Vietnam.
Prior to the illegal marijuana growing operation being discovered one week ago, there were an estimated 362,000 mature marijuana plants being grown in an area about one-tenth the size of Graham Park in Union City.
The marijuana was scattered throughout the forest. There were numerous small patches of just a few plants being grown at the site. There was also one large field of marijuana plants on the west side of the marijuana operation.
At the top of a steep hillside were several large marijuana drying stations. They were built out of wire, twine and tree limbs and were set up to allow the marijuana plants to dry out after they were harvested.
There was a primitive kitchen area where tree limbs were used to support a countertop covered with food. Sitting on the ground under the countertops were bags of fertilizer for the marijuana.
Nearby, a bedroom area was set up using tree limbs and bamboo. The mosquito netting and tarps covering the living quarters were confiscated by law enforcement officials early last week.
Makeshift showers were built using small flexible water hoses attached to trees and the showerheads were made from vitamin bottles.
Scattered around the living area, there remain remnants of where investigators had meticulously gathered evidence from the scene. There are sleeping bags, trash, empty soda and beer cans, Calamine lotion and mosquito spray and even a clothes line with several shirts and pants left to dry in the compound.
Law enforcement officials have a couple of generators taken from the site, as well as a two-burner gas stove that was used to cook food in the kitchen area.
The marijuana plants were destroyed by fire Thursday after being removed from the site in dumptrucks. More than $434 million worth of marijuana will not be hitting the nation’s streets now.
It is believed the local marijuana operation was one of, if not the largest in the state.
A bulldozer was brought in early last week to clear a path so law enforcement officials could access the site. Even after a trail was cleared, four-wheelers had to be used to get around the hilly terrain.
Now investigators are focused on processing the evidence and making arrests in the case.
Some of what is known about the case is the land where the marijuana operation was set up is known as the Peacock estate, owned by two sisters, both of whom live out of state. The entire estate covers about 450 acres.
Local officials believe the growers had already completed as many as three harvests and the finished product was hauled out from the site.
When the marijuana growing operation was first discovered, there was food in the kitchen area, still warm.
Leaves on some of the marijuana plants were still wet from having just been watered.
It is believed that when deputies discovered the site, the marijuana growers were making their escape from the scene.
The crew of about eight growers at the site had built an elaborate and extensive watering system using flexible pipes to transport water to the plants. They had also set up a drying operation about 100 yards up a steep hill from the living compound.
Local authorities believe the growers had been at the site for months cultivating their marijuana crop.
Many details of the operation are not being released by authorities as they continue their investigation.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 10.17.11

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